August 4, AD 119 )


( Johnson, Coleman-Norton & Bourne, Ancient Roman Statutes, Austin, 1961, pp. 179-180, n. 236 


     Soldiers were forbidden to marry while on active service until the time of Septimius Severus (193-211 A.D.). However, the soldiers often contracted irregular alliances (concubinage), and on their discharge such alliances were legalized and the children were declared legitimate. By this letter Hadrian enabled the offspring of such unions to inherit the property of a soldier who died or was killed while in active service.
     The papyrus containing this letter was reported in 1892.

Exemplar epistulae domini translatae . . .
Copy of an imperial letter translated into Greek from Latin . . .
. . . quae [anno] III Traiani Hadriani Augusti P. Aelio III et Rustico coss. proposita est . . . . . . in castris hibernis legionis tertiae Cyrenaicae et legionis uicesimae secundae Deiotarianae pridie nonas Augustas, quod est Mesore XI, in principiis.
. . . Issued in Year 3 of Trajan Hadrian Augustus, when Publius Aelius for the third time and Rusticus were consuls. Posted in Alexandria at the winter quarters of the Third Cyrenaic Legion and of the Twenty-second Deioterian Legion, August 4, which is Mesore II, at headquarters.
Scio, mi Ramni, eis, quos patres eorum militiae susceperunt temporibus, ad paterna bona aditum denegari, neque id uidebatur durum esse, si quidem illi aduersus militarem disciplinam fecerunt.
I am aware, my Ramnius, that those children acknowledged by their parents while still in military service have been debarred from succession to their fathers' estates, and this law did not appear severe, since the soldiers had acted in violation of military discipline.
At libentissime ego occasiones arripio, ob quas durius a retro principibus statuta humanius interpretor. Cum igitur non sunt legitimi heredes patrum suorum ii qui militiae temporibus suscepti sunt, tum possessionem bonorum ex illa parte edicti, ex qua etiam genere cognatis datur, petere posse etiam illos decerno.
But I take very great pleasure in seizing opportunities to interpret more leniently the somewhat harsh rule established by my predecessors. Insofar as those children acknowledged by parents in military service are not legitimate heirs of their parents, nevertheless I decree that they also may claim possession of the estates in accordance with that clause of the edict which gives this right to kinsmen by birth.
Hoc meum beneficium et militibus meis et ueteranis palam facere te oportebit, non ut id eis imputare uidear, sed ut eo utantur, si ignorant.
It shall be your duty to make this my boon known to my soldiers and veterans, not that I may appear to boast of it to them, but that they may use this privilege if they have not known of it.